About the Author

Chris Shiflett

Hi, I’m Chris: entrepreneur, community leader, husband, and father. I live and work in Boulder, CO.


All posts for Feb 2008

Kiwi Foo Camp

My sunburned feet have healed, so that means it's time to recap my trip to New Zealand for the second annual Kiwi Foo Camp.

Kiwi Foo Campers

My trip started in Auckland Friday morning, where I met David Slack (a fellow Foo), who was kind enough to give me a ride to Warkworth. We got ourselves registered and started mingling with the others. Following tradition, we all introduced ourselves and then began creating the schedule.

User experience was a popular topic this year, which suited me just fine. (The intersection of user experience and security is a new passion of mine.) I was glad to note several enthusiasts, particularly Ross Howard, Tash Hall (you need a blog!), and Nigel Parker. I managed to convince the three of them to host a talk about user experience, and because Ross wasn't actually present for this discussion, Tash listed him as the host. (If you've ever volunteered someone else for karaoke, you understand.) I wound up hosting the talk, but I had a good topic, so it worked out. The ensuing discussion was one of my favorites of the weekend. I might turn some of my notes into another blog post on the subject.

Robert O'Callahan, Ross Howard, and Nigel Parker

One of the most interesting talks was scheduled by Ross but hosted by Robert O'Callahan and Nigel. (I guess we're all sneaky like that.) The topic was the IE 8 meta tag. (Robert works for Mozilla; Nigel works for Microsoft.) This was interesting, although I wasn't familiar with the controversy. You can read Robert's perspective for the full recap.

Justine Sanderson gave a talk about cognitive psychology, which was my favorite talk of the weekend. (I added her blog to my planet, and I plan to keep an eye on her bookmarks as well.) Last year, she spoke about faceted navigation, which I unfortunately missed, so I made sure not to miss her this time. Change blindness was the primary phenomenon she discussed, and she demonstrated it with some videos, including one from Derren Brown. (I love Mind Control.) She gave some additional links for further exploration:

Thomas Fuchs and Amy Hoy

Other interesting people from this year include:

I'm probably forgetting some people and conversations. Maybe I can blame sleep deprivation.

James McGlinn's Card

A huge thanks to James McGlinn for giving Allison and I a ride to the airport in his flashy BMW. (PHP developers might remember James from his PHP Advent Calendar post.) Check out his license plate.

Thanks especially to Nat and Jenine for giving me a place to stay and letting me spend a few extra days in New Zealand. Oh, and for hosting Kiwi Foo!

Several people stayed in New Zealand for Webstock, which sounds like it was an amazing conference. You might be interested in some of the notes and discussions surrounding that as well.

CIO Magazine Trolls for Publicity

All publicity is good publicity, right? I'm not so sure.

Last week, CIO Magazine published an article on the advantages and disadvantages of the PHP programming language that can only be described as a blunder. With a target audience of C-level technical executives, you might expect a fairly professional, in-depth treatment of the topic, but the title (You Used PHP to Write WHAT?!) quickly challenges such an assumption.

Not surprisingly, the quality of the article itself matches the quality of the title; technical imprecision is just one of the recurrent problems:

In fact, its full name is PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (one of those famous Unix recursive acronyms), which means that it understands hypertext (HTML) without any special API or modifications.

Yes, PHP is an acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, but HTML is an acronym for Hypertext Markup Language. Pedantry aside, understanding HTML is certainly not something a PHP subject matter expert typically mentions as a strength of the language. In fact, without a very distorted interpretation of what "understands HTML" means, it's not even true.

Strike one.

The comments provide more entertainment than the article, particularly the defensive posture of the author (Ken Hess) and editor (Esther Schindler). (The favicon is sure to make you chuckle as well.) Ken manages to lower the bar of professionalism even further with his remarks:

OMG, I am sure that was THE reason he got fired LOL. OMG. This is too entertaining! CIO should hire me as a full-time writer just to illicit more responses like that. I deserve my own TV show.

But, wait! There's more! Esther Schindler tries to defend the article again in a new post that continues the theme she began in the comments: defending the article by positioning those who disagree with it as fans who think PHP is the best solution for any problem:

I knew that these articles would attract attention from fans who believed their favorite language is sacrosanct and appropriate for every possible use.

When trying to defend your position against an audience that is particularly adept at logic, it's probably best to avoid using a logical fallacy as the basis of your attack. I've written about the Straw Man Argument before:

This is often described as putting words in someone's mouth, but more specifically, it's when you misrepresent someone else's position in order to make it seem as if your position is superior.

Strike two.

She does offer an interview question that a manager with no technical background can ask to vet the technical depth of a candidate. Simply ask the candidate to list the strengths and weaknesses of a particular technology:

It almost doesn't matter what the developer's answer is, as long as there's something on the "... and here's what I don't like about it" side. On the other hand, someone who insists that C# is great for everything immediately shows that's he's just a beginner, no matter what "senior" tag he puts on his résumé.

Pretty clever, right? All those who insist upon having someone "in the know" conduct the interview are just wasting resources.

There's just one small problem. Didn't a supposed PHP subject matter expert recently write an article about the strengths and weaknesses of PHP?

Strike three.